Back pain is a common health problem experienced worldwide from various demographics and lifestyle backgrounds. Currently, professionals across many industries suffer from this problem. However, low back pain is most common among software professionals, mainly because of the nature of their work, fitness-related issues, and lifestyle.
Back pain can be caused by activity, injury and some medical problems. It can affect people of any age, for various reasons. With age, the chances of developing lower back pain raise, due to factors including previous job and degenerative disk disease. Studies say that almost 90% of back pains do not require surgery. They get better on their own. However, you must seek medical help if you experience it.
What Are the Symptoms of Back Pain?
There can be numerous causes. Some include poor lifestyle habits, and others include muscle strains, sports injuries, accidents, etc. The reasons for back pain may differ, but the symptoms are common to all.
Some of the common symptoms are:
- Continuous stiffness along the spine. The most affected areas are the base of the neck and the tailbone.
- Intense pain in the neck, upper back, or lower back, especially after heavy lifting or involvement in strenuous activity. However, if you feel pain in the upper back, it could needs to be investigated for more serious underlying causes . Immediate action needs to be taken in such situations.
- Chronic pain in the lower back after sitting or standing for long
- Back pain that radiates from the low back to the buttock and thighs
- The incapability of standing straight without having muscle spasms in the lower back
Causes of Back Pain
Our back consists of a complex structure of bones, muscles, disks, tendons, and ligaments that work in tandem to support our body and enable us to move around. While there are many reasons back pain is mainly caused by, in some cases the cause of the back pain remains unclear.
Back pain is mainly caused by tension, disc surgery , strain or injury. In addition, our spine segments are cushioned with disks, cartilage-like pads. Problems with any of these components may cause back pain. Damage to the disk can result from medical conditions, strain including poor posture, among others. Problems with the spine such as osteoporosis can also lead to back pain.
Common back pain causes include:
- Muscle spasm
- Disc Herniation
- Muscle tension
- Hip arthritis
- Falls, fractures or injuries
- Strained ligaments or muscles
- Damaged disks
Activities that can lead to strains or spasms include:
- Lifting too heavy things
- Lifting something improperly
- Making a sudden and awkward movement
- Structural Conditions
A number of structural conditions may cause back pain including:
- Bulging disks: Our spine’s vertebra is cushioned by disks. If the disk bulges or ruptures there will be more pressure on a nerve.
- Ruptured disks: Similar to bulging disks, a ruptured disk can result in more pressure on a nerve.
- Sciatica: A shooting, sharp pain that travels through the buttock towards the back of your leg, which is caused by a herniated or bulging disk pressing on a nerve.
- Arthritis: Arthritis may cause problems with the joints in the lower back, hips and other places. In a few cases, back pain can be due to spinal stenosis, narrowing of the space around the spinal cord tumor.
- Kidney problems: Kidney infections, hemodialysis or stones in the kidney can cause back pain.
- Movement and posture: A few everyday activities or poor posture may also lead to back pain. For example, bending too low or a much hunched sitting position while using computers may cause an increased shoulder or back pain over a period of time. Other examples include:
- Sneezing or coughing
- Bending for a long time or bending awkwardly
- Pulling, pushing, carrying or lifting something
- Straining the neck forward (like while using a computer or driving)
Other Back Pain Causes
Some medical conditions may also lead to back pain:
- Shingles: Shingle is a viral infection of the nerve that causes painful skin rashes. Depending on the affected areas, such skin diseases may lead to back pain.
- Sleep disorders: People suffering from sleep disorders are more prone to experience insomnia, back pain, compared to others.
- Infection of the spine: Spine infection can be due to a fever that may lead to back pain. Also, you can develop back pain owing to a tender, warm area on the back, which could be due to an infection of the spine.
- Cancer of the spine: A cancerous tumor on the spine may press against the nerve, which may lead to back pain.
- Cauda equina syndrome: This occurs when cauda equine, the bundle of nerves from the lower end of the spinal cord stimulation, is damaged. Symptoms may include a dull pain at the upper buttocks and in the lower back, including numbness in the thighs, genitalia, and buttocks. This condition may sometimes cause bladder and bowel disturbances.
- Other infections: Kidney, bladder infections or pelvic inflammatory disease may also cause it.
What Are Some Lifestyle Factors That Contribute to Back Pain?
Some of the most common lifestyle habits and activities are:
- Driving. Driving for long periods results in a sore lower back. Commuting for long hours while travelling to work is one of the major causes of back pain. Hence, it is important to maintain the right posture while driving.
- Wrong sleeping positions. Wrong positioning of the spine while sleeping causes back pain over time. This is commonly seen in stomach sleepers.
- Sports. Playing sports like golf and tennis causes a significant strain on the lower back. For example, Golfers usually coil their bodies, which creates tension on the sides.
- Smoking. Research studies have also established a strong link between smoking and lower back pain.
- Taking the stairs. Taking stairs frequently exerts stress on the back and knees.
- Sitting all day long. Sitting at your desk for long hours without a break can cause both back and neck pain.
- Lifting grocery bags or other heavy objects. Heavy lifting can also result in back issues. If you do not carry your heavy purse, grocery bag, or even a backpack the right way, it has good chances of resulting in back pain.
How Can the Cause of Back Pain be Diagnosed?
When Should You See a Doctor?
Those mentioned above are some important yet simple lifestyle changes that you can consider. Try these routine changes and see which one works best for you. However, you must consult your doctor before the condition worsens. You should visit your doctor in any of the following cases:
- If pain occurs frequently.
- If pain persists for over six weeks.
- If back pain radiates to other parts of the body like arms or legs.
- If back pain interferes with daily activities like walking, sitting, and bending.
Bringing lifestyle changes helps reduce the level of pain. But, if you are experiencing acute pain, lifestyle changes may not bring expected results.
Make an appointment soon. Depending on your needs, the doctor will suggest a quick test to identify the cause.
Preventions for Back Pain
You can avoid back pain and can also prevent its recurrence by practicing proper body mechanics and improving your physical condition. You can keep your back healthy and strong by the following actions:
Enhance muscle strength and flexibility.
You can start with abdominal and back muscle exercises that strengthen your core, help condition muscles so they can work together to strengthen your back. Your doctor or a physical therapist can tell you what exercises may work for you.
The way you hold your body is important for maintaining the right posture. Avoid slouching and focus on keeping a good posture while sitting or standing. Do not curve your body unnecessarily. Follow these tips to improve posture:
- Make sure your workspaces are at a convenient height.
- Adjust the seat in a way so that it is comfortable while working.
- Sit upright and straight.
- Move around and stretch your muscles regularly.
- Place a pillow behind the lower back while sitting to improve support.
Most of the back pains are mechanical in origin, meaning repetitive stress to your back like awkward or static postures, prolonged sitting, bending forward, standing and carrying heavy loads are some of them that may lead to sprains to the lower back.
The lower back needs to be nurtured and stretched the most. Try some neck and shoulder stretches every few hours to avoid stiffening up. They are great for relieving tension.
- To relieve pain and pressure, you may try Neck Flexion Stretch. The stretching is aimed at increasing the flexion range of motion of the neck. It also aids in supporting the back.
- Gently push your chin to the chest. Repeat it several times a day to see optimum results.
- Neck retraction reduces spinal pressure. Place your fingers on your chin and push it far backwards. Do 3-4 sessions throughout the day.
Regular exercise provides strength to your back. Doing it consistently enables weight loss. You can also manage your stress level by exercising regularly. Make sure your routine exercises include stretching, balancing, and strengthening your back muscles.
Skip unhealthy habits
Unhealthy habits might not seem like they affect your back, but that is not the case. As mentioned above, smoking increases back pain. The same goes for drinking alcohol. Smoking reduces blood flow to your bones and soft tissues, which causes severe back pain. Drinking alcohol in excess raises the levels of inflammation, which also increases pain. Curbing, or in the least moderating, these habits will go a long way in preventing many ailments, including back pain.
Take care of your weight
Staying fit is an important aspect of reducing back pain. Excess weight causes stress on the spine muscles. For this reason, practicing a healthy diet along with exercises can help in reducing stress on your back in the long run.
Deep massage therapy relaxes muscles, promotes circulation, and releases endorphins. Getting a massage at regular periods can help speed up your recovery from chronic back pain.
Do not stress
When you are under stress, your muscles may tighten and contract. Relax, take a deep breath, and try chanting to stay away from stress.
Do not fall on your desk while at work
Sit upright in your office chair. Try and use the right posture while sitting and standing. Good posture keeps your back well supported, which is crucial to maintaining back health if you regularly sit for long hours.
Choose a chair with firm support for your lower back. Adopting a correct posture keeps your back pain-free.
Proper sleeping methods
Sleep for at least 6-7 hours daily to maintain good back health. Getting good sleep in a comfortable position reduces back pain and stiffness. Please make use of an orthopaedic mattress, as it provides much-needed support to the back.
While driving, carry a support pillow. Use lightweight bags for travel, so you do not have to strain your back while carrying them . Take breaks in between if you are travelling to a faraway destination. And do not forget to stretch now and then.
Several alternative treatments also help ease the symptoms. However, before starting a new therapy, you must discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.
Chiropractors successfully reduce pain. They focus on spinal manipulation to ease your pain.
A practitioner inserts sterilized needles at specific pain points. This therapy is very helpful to reduce the symptoms related to back pain.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
In this therapy, your doctor uses a battery-powered device on the skin. The device provides electrical impulses to reduce pain.
Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain may also be associated with the discs between the vertebrae, spinal cord and nerves, bony lumbar spine (lower spine), ligaments around discs and spine, lower back muscles, and the skin around the affected areas. In most cases, lower back pain gets better on its own in a couple of weeks. Painkillers and physiotherapy can help you manage the symptoms, mainly pain. Some people need surgery.
Upper Back Pain
The upper back pain can be due to spine inflammation, tumors in the chest and disorders of the aorta. Such pain mainly occurs due to poor posture for a long time or an injury that affects the thoracic spine’s sturdiness.
Either you suffer from back pain or not, avoid movements that may strain or twist your back. Use your body properly. Stand smart, sit smart, lift smart and keep your back straight. Also, change your position every half an hour to avoid or prevent recurrence of back pain.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the most common cause of back pain?
Some of the most common causes include the following:
- Bad posture for a considerable time
- Strained ligaments or muscles
- Slipped disc
- Back injury
- Lifting heavyweights
What can cause lower back pain in women?
The main causes in women are:
- Kidney issues
- Slipped disc
- Restricted vertebrae (lumbar)
- Postural issues
- Menstrual pain
- Hormonal changes
How do you know if back pain is muscle or disc?
The pain originating in your muscle is different from the pain in your spinal area. The symptoms of spine-related pain will likely include radiating pain, electric pain, pain when moving, or even in a resting position. The symptoms of muscle-related pain are muscle tightness and pain at movement or rest.
How is chronic pain different from acute back pain?
Acute back pain occurs as a result of injuries in the past, like an accident. Chronic pain is associated with underlying causes like arthritis or any other disease
Are there any medications available for back pain?
Doctors generally prescribe pain relievers. However, it is recommended not to consume medicines without prior consultation.